is located in the centre north of Portugal (Beira Alta) in a region protected from the chilly Atlantic winds and severe continental climate, which helps to create the perfect conditions to produce elegant red and white wines with balanced acidity and aroma. Soils are low on fertility due to its schist and granite composition.
Within its mountain walls, Dão is full of contrasts: cooler in the north and east, warmer in the west, the region is full of hills and deep valleys, forests and mountain slopes. Climatically, the winters are cold and damp, and summers are generally sunny, warm and dry.
The vineyards lie high in the hills, at an average of 500m above sea level, enabling great sun exposure that allows perfect ripeness. These conditions confer Dão wines an innate balance of bright, mineral acidity combined with a wonderful fragrance, character and intensity.
Red wines age very well and are typically full-bodied with flavours of earl grey tea, black cherry and cocoa provided by the Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Jaen grape varieties. On the other hand, white wines are produced from Cercial, Bical, Encruzado, Verdelho and Malvasia Fina varieties that give a fruity flavour associated with lemon and baked apple.
Note that in the northwest part of Dão stands a granitic region called Lafões is known for producing wines high on acidity, similar to the ones from the nearby Vinho Verde region. Red wine varieties are Jaen and Amaral while white wines come from Cerceal, Arinto, Dona Branca, Rabo de Ovelha and Esgana Cão grapes.
At Adega Luis Pato vineyards you can still spot the traditional harvest method
is located in Beira Litoral between the Atlantic Ocean and the mountainous Dão region. The climate is considered maritime with mild temperatures, rainy winters and cool summers. Despite being a hilly region, the majority of the vines are planted on the flatter lands where the soils are typically sandy or clay-limestone, each one influencing the style of wine produced.
The red grape variety Baga, usually planted in clayey soils, is considered Bairrada’s ADN, giving the wine intense colours, fruity aromas and longevity. However, in recent years, the well-known international grape varieties such as Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir have become popular and coexist with the local ones.
White wines are produced from a mix of local and international varieties planted in the region’s sandy soils that deliver to the wine a delicate and aromatic character. The most popular grape variety is Fernão Pires, but Cercial, Arinto, Rabo de Ovelha and Chardonnay are also present in a smaller scale.
Bairrada has a great heritage of sparkling wine production by the traditional, bottle-fermented method, a tradition that is developing and increasing in the 21st century. Currently, the region accounts for around 65 percent of the country’s production of sparkling wines. Typically these wines may have the fragrance of Fernão Pires grapes or the more steely flavours from Cercial, Arinto and Bical varieties.
The region average farm size is typically small, a condition that has encouraged local producers to develop cooperatives to create scale. Recently, smaller companies have also started to commercialize “Vinhos de Quinta” (farm wines), characterized by low volume and experimental freedom from the winemaker.
Dão Main Varieties:
Red grapes: Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro Aragonez, Rufete and Jaen.
White grapes: Encruzado, Cercial, Bical and Malvasia.
Bairrada Main Varieties:
Red grapes: Baga, Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
White grapes: Arinto, Cercial, Bical, Sercialinho, Fernão Pires (Maria Gomes), Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
© Picture: Adega Luia Pato
by Francisco Sobral, Wine Curator